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I left my heart in San Francisco

On running and community with the everyday athletes of San Francisco Running Company’s Saturday long run.

When we travelled to California for our recent spring training camp, we hooked up with San Francisco Run Company for their Saturday long run. The store is owned by Brett and Larissa Rivers — Brett runs the store while Larissa works in marketing at @Stravarun. Their weekly Saturday runs have become insanely popular, attracting 60+ athletes most weeks to explore the trails of the Marin Headlands with the store a hub for the Bay Area running community.

Brett: “The tech industry is incredibly innovative and we definitely bring a sense of that to a community-centric running store. We are different by design and I believe that our concept and the brand that we are building are a reflection of the creativity of the tech industry here in the Bay Area. The community and our runs are also very social, I love checking out the Instagram feed of runners after they get back from our Saturday long run, it generates some inspiring and fun imagery.

“Mill Valley is a runner’s paradise. You need to control the stoke at times but fortunately the vert does that by default for you. The trails of Mill Valley and southern Marin are paradise especially for how close they are to a major metro like San Francisco. You can literally hop on hundreds of miles of amazing trails right from the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. That is the major reason we chose the Mill Valley location for our first store. It’s like opening a surf shop across from the most amazing surf break of your dreams — or starting a running apparel company at mile 13.1 of the Boston Marathon course!”

Larissa: “When we first started talking about building the business, I was still in finance, but we talked about it because we craved a community-based running store. It was the one thing missing from the run culture in our area. Having been @Stravarun now for almost four years, understanding the value and sheer fun of community has definitely helped inform a bit of how we operate, but to be honest I think it’s what attracted me to the company in the first place. It’s always been important to us and the one thing we really wanted to focus on when starting SFRC. In fact, I would say my main motivation for staying in shape these days is to make sure I can maintain my running social life.

The difficult thing about living in the Bay Area in general is that the weather is never that bad. Sure, it rains in the winter, but you can’t really make an excuse when it’s also 55 degrees. When you have the opportunity to run where we live, you also want to try to hit every trail possible. I find the peer pressure to be the hardest part since everyone is so active and the store has provided us with more running buddies than I could have ever imagined. As Brett says, it’s hard to control the stoke. Maybe it’s a good thing we’ve had kids — that’s the excuse I’ve been using lately for easy days.

I often run commute into the city, although I haven’t joined them since I got pregnant. The group I run with have been doing that run since 2006, so almost 10 years now. Every Tuesday and Thursday, 5:15am at the Tennessee Valley Community Center. There are obviously times when it doesn’t happen, but if you commit the day before, you don’t want to leave your friend hanging out in the cold and dark at 5am… It gets you out there for sure. And then you get to work before most of your colleagues, have your coffee and feel ready to take on the day — at least until 4pm when all you want to do is take a nap!

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor and is the man behind, a weekly email newsletter that covers everything from running and doping to productivity and entrepreneurialism.

“I grew up on the east coast but now I live in California. New England has a running history that is hard to match, and it’s home to the best racing scene in the country. Whether it’s the Mayor’s Cup cross country race, the summer twilight track series, Grand Prix road racing competition or the Boston Marathon, New England runners love to compete and the community really takes a lot of pride in its history and those athletes who have called the area home. The Bay Area running community is special in its own right, with a connectedness and camaraderie that is hard to put into words. It has deep history of iconic races such as the Dipsea, Bay to Breakers and more, along with some of the most beautiful trails you could ever imagine.

“More and more Bay Area runners are starting to mix it up, which is fantastic to see. A lot of the true trail and ultra folks raced cross country last year for the first time, and by all accounts, they loved it. On the flipside, we’ve seen more road and track types heading over the trails and experimenting with longer off-road races. It’s a vibrant, diverse community, which is part of what makes it so special.

“I started my weekly email newsletter, The Morning Shakeout in November 2015 and it’s quickly become my favorite thing to work on each week. I’ve been thrilled with the response. I had been sitting on the idea of launching an email newsletter or blog for a while — I bought The Morning Shakeout URL a couple years ago — and finally decided to go for it last November. I was inspired by a few newsletters I enjoy reading, including Dave Pell’s Next Draft, the New York Times’ daily briefing and Austin Kleon’s weekly 10 things worth sharing. The Morning Shakeout is a place where I can provide commentary on a topic or simply share links to things I find interesting, whether they’re running-related or not. I’m excited to see how it evolves!”

Maggie Tides is an artist and accomplished runner who lives on the north side of Mt Tam. She runs with SFRC most Saturdays.

“My running and art cross-pollinate each other. I had stopped drawing for a while but I picked it back up to draw the course maps for local races, and that led me to expand into original drawings and prints. And now when I’m on runs, I’ll end up tacking on extra miles just to get the perfect perspective on a mountain or tree. They are both good hobbies (and/or obsessions) to have!

“I’ve noticed a lot of runners here in the Bay Area are creative, though not necessarily through art. Many athletes practice fine craftsmanship — whether that’s with baking (Devon Yanko at MH Bakery), art (Caitlin Smith, Travis Weller), coffee (Michael McSherry at Equator), or food (Chef Todd Shoberg). This area has a concentration of people who are passionate and expressive — people who like to get outside and push themselves physically and also like to create new and beautiful things. It’s an amazing place to be for inspiration in every aspect of life.”

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Nathan Yanko is the founder of MH Bread and Butter, widely regarded as THE place in Marin for the best baked goods. He’s a Culinary Academy-trained chef who spent time at the much respected Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Having quit to set out on his own, MH Bread and Butter is based in the running paradise of San Anselmo at the base of the north side of Mt. Tam. Yanko might not be a regular on the SFRC’s Saturday runs thanks to his demanding work schedule, but he’s a really fast runner, currently training for the Napa Marathon, where he placed third in 2012 with 2:33. Once again, running’s a family affair, with Nathan married to the Oiselle athlete Devon Yanko.

“I generally work long hours starting very early in the morning (2:45am). This means I don’t get out for a run until early afternoon generally, after being on my feet for 10+ hours. This definitely has an impact on my running and training. I have learned that I need to be a bit more flexible with my running and being open to taking unplanned rest days or taking it easy. I’ve really learned how to listen to my body and when it needs rest or when I can push through.

“I don’t know where I would be without gluten. I thrive on eating gluten and love it. Funny though that my wife is gluten intolerant. I think there are people who definitely do better without gluten in their diets, even if it’s just a vacation from gluten. However, I am not one of these people. I think that in many aspects of life moderation is key; too much of anything can throw the body off. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with gluten, just the way that it is often over-eaten.”

Meter takes a long form look at the hidden side of running culture and at the athletes, heritage and events that continue to make running the greatest sport in the world. Subscribe to the print magazine at